Chargers face uphill battle winning public vote for new stadium

San Diego mayor has big task ahead (1:26)

ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams talks about the San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer's job to convince voters to support a new stadium with public money. (1:26)

SAN DIEGO -- One of the reasons the Chargers consider staying in San Diego a long shot is the public is unlikely this November to approve of paying for a new stadium.

Throughout the process, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has remained committed to any public contribution for funding a new stadium requiring approval by a public vote.

The Chargers funded two polls measuring the viability of a public vote passing for a new stadium in San Diego. One of the polls was conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, a national firm that runs the well-known NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

The other was done by a market researcher out of Austin, Texas -- Baselice & Associates, Inc.

When participants were asked if they favor or oppose using at least $375 million of taxpayer money from the city’s general fund to help build a new NFL stadium in San Diego, both polls showed about 33 percent approval.

A recent poll conducted by The San Diego Union-Tribune and ABC San Diego Ch. 10 TV news offered similar results, showing 36 percent support for using $350 million in public funds to build a new stadium.

However, according to a poll conducted by Competitive Edge Research and Communication included as part of Faulconer’s $1.1 billion proposal for a new stadium sent to the NFL, a ballot measure asking for a third of the cost for a new stadium being covered by a public contribution would be approved by 51 percent of respondents -- enough for a majority vote to pass in November.

Under the proposal, the city of San Diego would provide $200 million and the county $150 million.

But the question included the caveat that no new taxes would be included in the public’s contribution.

Jason Roe, the chief political strategist for Faulconer, believes it’s important to provide context to poll participants so they understand what they are voting for. The city will use a similar strategy in campaigning for a new stadium later this year.

“Any time you conduct public opinion research, you’re looking for an outcome,” Roe said. “And for the purpose of the polls we did, we wanted to test a number of different issues related to the stadium, and how voters felt so that we knew how to move forward in a constructive way.

“We were not looking for an affirmative or negative response. We were looking for what the voters would support.

“We have no interest in putting forth a ballot initiative for a stadium that we don’t believe has public support. And if we found out from our polling that there wasn’t public support, there’s no reason for us to go down that path. But we came away from our research with a pretty good understanding of where the electorate was, and a high degree of confidence that we could get voter approval.”

Public funding for the San Diego Padres' Petco Park faced a similar uphill battle for public support according to Tom Shepard, a political consultant involved in helping get the baseball stadium built in downtown San Diego.

Shepard said that back then only 37 percent of city voters supported the use of public money for the building of a new baseball stadium.

Of course, the Padres were buoyed at the polls by the team reaching the World Series in 1998. The Chargers may need a similar effort on the football field to push the measure across the goal line at the ballot box.

“It’s very important in two ways,” said Roe, when asked about the public vote to fund Petco Park. “One, it was a successful campaign, and they obviously did things right in order to be successful.

“And then two, the story of the park. I think everyone looks at that as being a very valuable public asset, definitely from a redevelopment standpoint, that was a catalyst for improving East Village and that area. So we think that it provides folks context for envisioning what Mission Valley could look like with a new stadium and the amenities surrounding it.”

Shepard doesn’t see a November vote as an impediment to the Chargers’ chances at success. According to Competitive Edge, placing the measure on the November 2016 ballot would significantly boost its chances. Moderate and low propensity voters are more likely to support the measure.

“There are going to be a lot of things on the ballot -- both the local and the state ballot -- in November,” Shepard told The Mighty 1090. “But this is going to be the most interesting measure on the ballot regardless of what else is there. And it’s going to be the thing that captures the interest and imagination of most San Diego voters.”

Jim Steeg a former NFL executive and member of Faulconer’s task force on the stadium issue, said it will be important to get key stakeholders on their side, including environmentalists who want to rehabilitate the nearby San Diego River at the Mission Valley site, and San Diego State University, a potential tenant in the new facility that’s also looking to expand at the Mission Valley.

Steeg said another factor in a successful vote in November is that Faulconer, county supervisor Ron Roberts and city attorney Jan Goldsmith all could be in their final terms in office, meaning they will not be beholden to getting re-elected by voters.

“You’re not worried about who you are offending at that point,” Steeg said.